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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

‘Doctor Who’ blogging: “The Stolen Earth”

(tons of spoilers! don’t read till you’ve seen the episode (and the season finale too)! and no comments from party poopers — this is a love fest only / previous: Episode 11: “Turn Left”)

This is the one we were all upset about, “we” being those of us who had been keeping up with the show as it was airing in Britain, a couple weeks ahead of the U.S. What an extraordinary moment, in the recent and short history of “everything on TV being totally not secret thanks to the Internet and celebrity ‘journalism.’” Something really really big came as a total surprise, not having been spoiled for us in advance by, you know, the entire world and our own geeky thirst for as much advance information as we can get our hands on.
The Doctor is regenerating? But how could this be? We’ve heard nothing about David Tennant leaving the show — he wouldn’t do that to us, would he? We’ve heard nothing about a new Doctor coming aboard, and wouldn’t there have been all sorts of news about who that actor was and what kind of Doctor he’d be and what his costume would be like and all that stuff, just like there was when Tennant’s taking over the part was announced? And even if that ending — the Doctor regenerating! — is all a trick, a red herring, something to keep us in suspense till next week… how was that kept secret in an era in which no plot development, certainly not on a show as avidly followed and discussed and rehashed online as this one, isn’t known in advance? Hell, we all knew Davros (one of the major baddies from the old show) was coming back in this episode, even though that was supposedly a huge secret… though it occurs to me just now, as I write this, that perhaps that was a bit of a distraction, or misdirection, to make us think we were on top of what was gonna happen.

However Russell Davies and the whole team managed it, I applaud them. It’s so rare these days to be genuinely surprised like this, and it was so much fun. Gut-wrenching, to be sure, but fun.

(Of course, Sci Fi, in its horrendous previews and coming attractions, ruined, in advance, both the surprise ending of this episode and that it gets resolved relatively innocuously in the next episode. Bastards.)

That ending almost overshadows everything that comes before it, though it’s easier for me to relax and take a good look at it all, now that I know that we’re not losing David Tennant. *whew* And the gist of this one is: Harriet Jones was right (and was there any doubt that she would be?) There came a day when planet Earth was in grave danger, and the Doctor wasn’t around to stop it. He was, not to put too fine a point on it, too busy peeing his pants over the reappearance of the Daleks and Davros to such a degree that Donna has to remind him that he’s okay, he’s safe in the TARDIS:

Which may or may not be a step up from his earlier complete flake-out/freeze-up over being unable to solve the conundrum he’d found himself in (where’s Earth? holy shit, I don’t know…):

The Doctor’s on the edge of going bye-bye, but fortunately there’s UNIT and Martha, and Sarah Jane and Mr. Smith, and Torchwood to step up to the plate. And Rose, of course. (Presumably some of the Doctor’s other former companions currently on Earth have some idea how to fight Daleks, too — Tegan would surely be putting up her own resistence, wouldn’t she?) I must say that the Shadow Proclamation is a bit of a letdown — perhaps it’s one of those things we should never have seen — but who needs them? Humanity can take care of itself. That’s not a bad message to hear.

But whether Earth really needs the Doctor or not, we love him. When Sarah Jane runs out and leave poor Luke all on his own, she says, “I love you, remember that,” but what goes unspoken — but is oh-so obvious — is what she could have said next, which is, “But I love the Doctor more.” You know she was thinking it…

Random thoughts on “The Stolen Earth”:

• The insane Dalek is one of the creepiest things the show has ever come up with. The giggling is maybe worse than the prognostication, although hearing the Doctor called “the Dark Lord” is pretty disturbing, as is the prediction of the death of a loyal companion.

• Now this is a fer-real proper flying saucer:

• Richard Dawkins!

• UNIT in New York is mine! Mine! Especially if they’re gonna totally futz it up like this:

I mean, my god, if they’re going to get all the details completely wrong, then how can we trust them on anything else? I’m never watching Doctor Who again! (Notice: The preceding was a sendup of overly critical fandom.)

• Hey, if it was 8am in London (as Sarah Jane says it was) when the Earth got itself stole, then it was 3am in New York. UNIT was pretty busy for the middle of the night, weren’t they?

• Why aren’t the Judoon translated by the TARDIS? It made sense that they weren’t in the previous Judoon story, since the TARDIS was far away on Earth while the Doctor was on the Moon. But why here?

• The bees! They’re like the dolphins: as soon as the going gets tough and the end is nigh, it’s, So long and thanks for all the flowers.

• Ah, the subwave network was created by the Mr. Copper Foundation. So he put that credit card loaded with all those millions to good use, it seems…

• “Oo, he’s a bit nice,” Gwen says when she sees the Doctor over the subwave network. “I thought he’d be older.” And then, what does Ianto say after that? I can’t make it out, but I bet it’s funny. (And Donna thinks Jack is just delicious. And, honestly, though, who doesn’t?)

• Clever Wilf, with his idea to blind the Daleks with the paintgun. Too bad the Daleks anticipated such a move on an enemy’s part.

• The Doctor’s phone number (actually Martha’s old number, since it’s her phone he’s got on the TARDIS) is 07700 900461…

…and apparently the BBC wasted a huge opportunity for promotion. It’s not a working number, which is just plain silly. You can’t post a phone number that clearly on a show like this and not expect people to call it. So you use a number you have access to and you throw up a message (“Thank you for calling the Gallifreyan Embassy on Earth. For travel visa information, press 1…”) or at least an ad (“Drink more Ovaltine!”).

• On the other hand, the whole world calling the Doctor at the same time, is that a bit too much like everyone thinking “Doctor” at the end of “Last of the Time Lords”?

• More tidbits from the Time War: “But you were destroyed, in the very first year of the Time War, at the Gates of Elysium,” the Doctor says to Davros. “I saw your command ship fly into the jaws of the Nightmare Child. I tried to save you.”

(next: Episode 13: “Journey’s End”)


MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
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  • Interesting WHO news item:

    http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2008/08/03/time-for-a-darker-doctor-who-91466-21455645/

    Do you know if Sci-fi shows the 60min specials, and I saw somewhere that no more WHO until 2010?

  • MaryAnn

    I don’t know what Sci Fi is going to do with the specials next year, but I’ll see if I can find out.

  • Sarah

    Somehow I find it quite sad, the idea that Sarah Jane would choose the Doctor over her son. :(

    (have you seen The Sarah Jane Adventures yet, by the way?)

  • I don’t remember that part, can you help jog my memory… Yes I watched SJA series 1, kid-ish but fun

  • Joanne

    No ads possible on the phone line – BBC doesn’t do ads thannks to the licence fee (hurrah). But they should totally have had a recorded message. “You’ve reached the TARDIS. The Doctor’s not here at the moment as he’s off saving the universe, again, with a bit of a help from his friends. Press 1 if you have a missing planet; press 2 if you’re offering banana daiquiris; press 3 if you’re returning from a parallel universe. Have a brilliant day.”

  • I don’t know what Sci Fi is going to do with the specials next year, but I’ll see if I can find out.

    According to this:

    http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/tv/la-et-davies2-2008aug02,0,5769596.story

    The Sci-Fi Channel hasn’t decided anything yet.

  • I’ve looked at the America/not America picture for awhile now, and I can’t figure out what that is the not America arrow is pointing at. What is it?

  • “Oo, he’s a bit nice,” Gwen says when she sees the Doctor over the subwave network. “I thought he’d be older.” And then, what does Ianto say after that?

    I think he said “He’s not that young.”

  • jakob1978

    I’ve looked at the America/not America picture for awhile now, and I can’t figure out what that is the not America arrow is pointing at. What is it?

    It’s a european sign showing emergency exits.

  • Oh, then clearly I must join MaryAnn in her outrage. I refuse to watch any more new Doctor Who until Christmas. So there, Russell Davies. ;D

  • BillM, that emergency exit sign is not how they look in the US.

  • MaryAnn

    Yes, that’s a totally British and not at all American exit sign.

    (have you seen The Sarah Jane Adventures yet, by the way?)

    Yes, and I wrote about SJA here.

  • ***QUOTE****
    According to this:

    http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/tv/la-et-davies2-2008aug02,0,5769596.story

    The Sci-Fi Channel hasn’t decided anything yet.
    *******

    A friend told me:

    “The information is somewhere on the sci-fi.com website. I read it in one of their email newsletters. There will only be four episodes next season followed by a full season of 12 episodes in 2010.”

  • We knew that. :)

    The question is, does the Sci-Fi Channel plan to buy the rights to the 4 2009 specials? (Or the next full series in 2010, for that matter?)

    But the answer so far is, they haven’t decided.

  • that info about the 4 episodes was in a Sci-Fi newsletter, so it looks likely that they will show them, I hope they do- if not maybe [URL deleted by maj] will have them.

  • MaryAnn

    I deleted that URL because it was a link to a site illegally offering copyrighted material.

    The question is, does the Sci-Fi Channel plan to buy the rights to the 4 2009 specials? (Or the next full series in 2010, for that matter?)

    No, actually, the question is not IF Sci Fi will air those episodes — there cannot seriously be any question that it will — but WHEN it will air them. If it’s going to wait to air them all at once after they’ve all been completed and have aired in Britain… well, I’m not going to wait that long to see them…

  • I wouldn’t be surprised if they get sued, I suppose I have an ethical dilemma at hand. Do I support an illegal endeavor when my DVR fails to record Doctor Who and I’m not home to watch it? LOL lucky me(not)

  • No, actually, the question is not IF Sci Fi will air those episodes — there cannot seriously be any question that it will — but WHEN it will air them.

    It may be a faint if, but I think it’s always as if. IIRC, it was a long time before Sci-Fi confirmed they have bought the rights to air the 4th series.

    And I read an interview — that I can’t find a link back to now, of course — with whoever runs BBC America where they said that the BBC always informally gives them the option to top any dollar figure someone else offers for rights to broadcast a BBC program.

    As I recall the gist of the story, BBC America made sure to hold the rights to Torchwood that way. And then as Torchwood became a hit for them and the writers’ strike was causing its stir, Sci-Fi made sure to be the top bid when Sarah Jane was made avaiable for broadcast rather than let another Doctor Who property pass them by.

    This network person was rather chagrined that (before their time) Sci-Fi had secured the rights to Doctor Who rather than BBC America, because they would love to be broadcasting it shortly after its UK airing a la Torchwood. It’s probably a question now of how much both sides are willing to spend going forward for new Doctor Who rights.

  • Why aren’t the Judoon translated by the TARDIS? It made sense that they weren’t in the previous Judoon story, since the TARDIS was far away on Earth while the Doctor was on the Moon. But why here?

    The Judoon are cops.

    It is my considered opinion then that they are either naturally or outfitted with a device that makes them telepathically opaque. If you can’t read their mind then you cannot translate them automatically.

    Second option is that their language is so common that the TARDIS assumes that you can speak it even if you can’t.

    Third option (and most likely) is that David Tennant wanted to say something in Judoon so badly that the writer’s let him. :)

  • Weimlady

    Why aren’t the Judoon translated by the TARDIS?

    While I like C. David Dent’s third option above, I have my own theory, which is that the TARDIS doesn’t translate ceremonial language, i.e. formal greetings, challenges, etc. Any speech where the actual form of the language carries meaning, above and beyond the content. This is why, for example, when the Doctor challenges the Sycorax leader in Sycoraxian in The Christmas Invasion, it isn’t translated.

    Either that, or he just likes to show off his linguistic abilities from time to time so that his companions don’t think he depends on the TARDIS for translation.

    Did you notice he speaks Judoon with a Gallifreyan accent? :-)

  • Everything tells me not to read the Dr. Who link, don’t read it Supernetuser, don’t read it, and then I do click and I read it. I’m chicken. I’m just waiting for Dr. Who torrents, I fear the episode like a proper Dr. Who fan. Judoon just sounds so much better in British english. What happens to Martha? No wait, don’t tell me. I shouldn’t be asking. No wait I want to know. No I don’t. Yes I do.

  • MaryAnn

    This network person was rather chagrined that (before their time) Sci-Fi had secured the rights to Doctor Who rather than BBC America, because they would love to be broadcasting it shortly after its UK airing a la Torchwood.

    I’m sure they would. But it would be nice if more of us could actually watch *Torchwood* on American TV. Like me: my cable company doesn’t carry BBCA.

    I bet far more people have access to Sci Fi than have access to BBC America.

  • I don’t know if you would call it “far more”, but I found these numbers:

    Sci-Fi = ‘almost’ 74 million
    http://www.scifi.com/help/channelfaq/

    BBCA = ‘over 60 million’
    http://www.press.bbcamerica.com/press/corporateoverview.jsp

    I guess I’m fortunate to have both, though I hardly watch Sci-Fi now compared to when it first debuted.

  • MaryAnn

    That difference is more than the *entire* audience for *Doctor Who* in the UK, at its ratings best (when it gets about 10 million viewers).

  • I’m not sure what you mean by that comment; I don’t see how it’s relevant, since certainly neither channel is getting 10 million viewers for Doctor Who, or probably anything else they air.

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